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With a Preface by ^Robert 1(oss 







OSCAR WILDE'S writings require, I 
have often observed elsewhere, no 
introductions. Even ' De Profundis ' and 
' The Ballad of Reading Gaol,' the two more 
personal works from his pen, explain them- 
selves and thereby defeat the ingenuity of 
editors or commentators. Herein lies, 
at least one cause of the author's extra- 
ordinary popularity in countries separated 
from England by wider gulfs than those 
of geography and language. The veritable 
child of his age, Wilde is one of the least 
provincial writers of the nineteenth century. 
No special knowledge of that age is 
necessary for appreciating either his style 
or his humour. He shares the prerogative 
of all writers who survive the obloquy or 
adulation of their own period. The 



universality of his approach to art, litera- 
ture, and life, assures for him, I believe, 
the attention of posterity, provided that 
posterity will have any curiosity concerning 
the literary expression of the last century. 
I remember being told by a sympathetic 
man of letters, shortly after Wilde died in 
1900, that none of his books would ever 
be read in the future and that none of his 
plays would ever be performed again. This 
opinion was confirmed by a prominent 
public official, whose knowledge of human 
nature and the value of literary property 
ought to have been extensive. At that 
time only one or two of Wilde's published 
dramas were to be found in London book- 
shops ; some of the other works being 
surreptitiously sold in pirated editions. 
There was, however, one exception. The 
copyright of ' The Soul of Man,' be- 
longed to Mr. Arthur Humphreys, from 
whom copies could always be obtained. 
Not unpardonably I regarded this cir- 
cumstance as a symbol of the revived 



interest in the other works, so soon to 
falsify the unfortunate prophecies I have 
quoted. In 1901, the year when Salome 
was first produced in Berlin, a friend wrote 
to me from Russia that he had purchased 
in the bazaar at Nijni Novgorod copies 
of ' The Soul of Man ' in four different 

With those of a well-known tragic figure 
in history it may well be claimed that 
Wilde's message and appeal were addressed 
to the wider theatre of Europe where they 
have met with a response such as has been 
accorded to very few other English authors. 

In 1907-8 in order to make complete 
the Library Edition of Wilde, it was ne- 
cessary to lease copyrights not belonging 
to myself. Licences, were, of course, ob- 
tained from the different owners. But Mr. 
Arthur Humphreys most generously per- 
mitted me to include ' The Soul of Man ' 
without the usual quid pro quo. I have only 
consented to add this superfluous preface 
on condition that he allows me to mention 



a kindness which must serve as the single 
possible excuse for my present intrusion. 

Unique among Wilde's writings it is 
no exaggeration to say that ' The Soul of 
Man' is unique in English literature. At 
least there is no more comprehensive essay 
with which I am acquainted. Without 
being in the least desultory, it touches, 
though ever so lightly, almost every 
subject on which educated people think 
when they think at all. And every 
subject is illuminated by a phrase which 
haunts the memory. Indeed, many of these 
phrases have been boldly appropriated 
without acknowledgment or ' socialised ' 
by some of our leading platform orators. It 
may interest some of the author's admirers to 
note that in this essay he acknowledges, 
what in his previous writings he pretended 
to ignore the potentialities of science. 
In the old aesthetic days, under the influence 
of Ruskin and the Pre-Raphaelites, Wilde 
affected to depreciate the debt of humanity 
to modern science. Art was more or less to 


solve everything. Here he recognises that 
science, not art, is going to cure con- 
sumption and solve the problem of misery. 
Indeed, his appreciation of life and its 
issues, his perception that art and literature 
are component parts of life and not the 
whole of life, account in some measure 
for the eagerness with which the present 
and younger generation read Wilde, when 
the fame of his more esteemed contempo- 
raries is already a little dimmed and their 
canons of art, literature and life are being 

That Wilde preaches orthodox Socialism 
would, I think, be difficult to maintain. He 
appears to be playing with an idea like 
the guests of Plato's ' Symposium.' He 
unlocks the door of his fantasy when he 
says ' Utopia is the one country at which 
humanity is always landing.' Nevertheless, 
Socialists of the present day have hailed, 
I am told, ' The Soul of Man,' as a quite 
possible manifesto ; while Tories and 
Liberals have not hesitated to quote the 



severe criticisms on democracy, even in 
the House of Commons. In the vindication 
of Individualism there is, I venture to 
think, a not entirely fantastic answer to 
some of the social and economic questions 
which disturb every thoughtful member of 
the community. The intellectual affinity 
between Nietzsche, whom Wilde never read, 
and the philosophy of his essay will be 
obvious to all students of the great German 

Wilde used to say that a work of art was 
a mirror in which every man saw his own 
image. ' The Soul of Man,' like its author, 
has many facets, and illustrates the well- 
known principle that the angle of incident is 
equal to the angle of reflexion. 



THE chief advantage that would result 
from the establishment of Socialism 
is, undoubtedly, the fact that Socialism 
would relieve us from that sordid necessity 
of living for others which, in the present 
condition of things, presses so hardly upon 
almost everybody. In fact, scarcely any 
one at all escapes. 

Now and then, in the course of the 
century, a great man of science, like 
Darwin ; a great poet, like Keats ; a fine 
critical spirit like M. Renan; a supreme 
artist like Flaubert, has been able to isolate 
himself, to keep himself out of reach of the 
clamorous claims of others, to stand, ' under 

1 B 


the shelter of the wall,' as Plato puts it, 
and so to realise the perfection of what was 
in him, to his own incomparable gain, and 
to the incomparable and lasting gain of the 
whole world. These, however, are ex- 
ceptions. The majority of people spoil 
their lives by an unhealthy and exaggerated 
altruism are forced, indeed, so to spoil 
them. They find themselves surrounded 
by hideous poverty, by hideous ugliness, by 
hideous starvation. It is inevitable that 
they should be strongly moved by all this. 
The emotions of man are stirred more 
quickly than man's intelligence ; and, as 
I pointed out some time ago in an article 
on the function of criticism, it is much more 
easy to have sympathy with suffering than 
it is to have sympathy with thought. 
Accordingly, with admirable, though mis- 
directed intentions, they very seriously 


and very sentimentally set themselves to 
the task of remedying the evils that they 
see. But their remedies do not cure the 
disease : they merely prolong it. Indeed, 
their remedies are part of the disease. 

They try to solve the problem of 
poverty, for instance, by keeping the poor 
alive ; or, in the case of a very advanced 
school, by amusing the poor. 

But this is not a solution : it is an 
aggravation of the difficulty. The proper 
aim is to try and reconstruct society on 
such a basis that poverty will be impossible. 
And the altruistic virtues have really 
prevented the carrying out of this aim. 
Just as the worst slave-owners were those 
who were kind to their slaves, and so 
prevented the horror of the system being 
realised by those who suffered from it, and 
understood by those who contemplated it, 



so, in the present state of things in 
England, the people who do most harm 
are the people who try to do most good ; 
and at last we have had the spectacle of 
men who have really studied the problem 
and know the life educated men who live 
in the East End coming forward and 
imploring the community to restrain its 
altruistic impulses of charity, benevolence, 
and the like. They do so on the ground 
that such charity degrades and demoralises. 
They are perfectly right. Chanty creates a 
multitude of sins. 

There is also this to be said. It is 
immoral to use private property in order 
to alleviate the horrible evils that result 
from the institution of private property. It 
is both immoral and unfair. 

Under Socialism all this will, of course, 
be altered. There will be no people living 



in fetid dens and fetid rags, and bringing up 
unhealthy, hunger-pinched children in the 
midst of impossible and absolutely repulsive 
surroundings. The security of society will 
not depend, as it does now, on the state 
of the weather. If a frost comes we shall 
not have a hundred thousand men out of 
work, tramping about the streets in a state 
of disgusting misery, or whining to their 
neighbours for alms, or crowding round 
the doors of loathsome shelters to try and 
secure a hunch of bread and a night's un- 
clean lodging. Each member of the society 
will share in the general prosperity and 
happiness of the society, and if a frost 
comes no one will practically be anything 
the worse. 

Upon the other hand, Socialism itself 
will be of value simply because it will lead 
to Individualism. 


Socialism, Communism, or whatever one 
chooses to call it, by converting private 
property into public wealth, and sub- 
stituting co-operation for competition, will 
restore society to its proper condition of 
a thoroughly healthy organism, and insure 
the material well-being of each member of 
the community. It will, in fact, give Life 
its proper basis and its proper environment. 
But, for the full development of Life to 
its highest mode of perfection, something 
more is needed. What is needed is In- 
dividualism. If the Socialism is Authori- 
tarian ; if there are Governments armed 
with economic power as they are now 
with political power ; if, in a word, we are 
to have Industrial Tyrannies, then the last 
state of man will be worse than the first. 
At present, in consequence of the existence 
of private property, a great many people are 



enabled to develop a certain very limited 
amount of Individualism. They are either 
under no necessity to work for their living, 
or are enabled to choose the sphere of 
activity that is really congenial to them, 
and gives them pleasure. These are the 
poets, the philosophers, the men of science, 
the men of culture in a word, the real 
men, the men who have realised them- 
selves, and in whom all Humanity gains 
a partial realisation. Upon the other hand, 
there are a great many people who, having 
no private property of their own, and being 
always on the brink of sheer starvation, 
are compelled to do the work of beasts of 
burden, to do work that is quite un- 
congenial to them, and to which they are 
forced by the peremptory, unreasonable, 
degrading Tyranny of want. These are 
the poor ; and amongst them there is no 



grace of manner, or charm of speech, or 
civilisation, or culture, or refinement in 
pleasures, or joy of life. From their col- 
lective force Humanity gains much in 
material prosperity. But it is only the 
material result that it gains, and the man 
who is poor is in himself absolutely of no 
importance. He is merely the infinitesimal 
atom of a force that, so far from regarding 
him, crushes him : indeed, prefers him 
crushed, as in that case he is far more 

Of course, it might be said that the In- 
dividualism generated under conditions of 
private property is not always, or even as a 
rule, of a fine or wonderful type, and that 
the poor, if they have not culture and 
charm, have still many virtues. Both these 
statements would be quite true. The pos- 
session of private property is very often 



extremely demoralising, and that is, of 
course, one of the reasons why Socialism 
wants to get rid of the institution. In fact, 
property is really a nuisance. Some years 
ago people went about the country saying 
that property has duties. They said it so 
often and so tediously that, at last, the 
Church has begun to say it. One hears it 
now from every pulpit. It is perfectly true. 
Property not merely has duties, but has so 
many duties that its possession to any large 
extent is a bore. It involves endless claims 
upon one, endless attention to business, 
endless bother. If property had simply 
pleasures, we could stand it ; but its duties 
make it unbearable. In the interest of the 
rich we must get rid of it. The virtues of 
the poor may be readily admitted, and are 
much to be regretted. We are often told 
that the poor are grateful for charity. Some 



of them are, no doubt, but the best amongst 
the poor are never grateful. They are un- 
grateful, discontented, disobedient, and re- 
bellious. They are quite right to be so. 
Charity they feel to be a ridiculously in- 
adequate mode of partial restitution, or a 
sentimental dole, usually accompanied by 
some impertinent attempt on the part of 
the sentimentalist to tyrannise over their 
private lives. Why should they be grateful 
for the crumbs that fall from the rich man's 
table ? They should be seated at the board, 
and are beginning to know it. As for being 
discontented, a man who would not be dis- 
contented with such surroundings and such 
a low mode of life would be a perfect brute. 
Disobedience, in the eyes of any one who 
has read history, is man's original virtue. 
It is through disobedience that progress has 
been made, through disobedience and through 



rebellion. Sometimes the poor are praised 
for being thrifty. But to recommend thrift 
to the poor is both grotesque and insulting. 
It is like advising a man who is starving to 
eat less. For a town or country labourer to 
practise thrift would be absolutely immoral. 
M an should not be ready to show that he 
can live like a badly-fed animal. He should 
decline to live like that, and should either 
steal or go on the rates, which is considered 
by many to be a form of stealing. As for 
begging, it is safer to beg than to take, but 
it is finer to take than to beg. No : a poor 
man who is ungrateful, unthrifty, discon- 
tented, and rebellious, is probably a real 
personality, and has much in him. He is at 
any rate a healthy protest. As for the 
virtuous poor, one can pity them, of course, 
but one cannot possibly admire them. 
They have made private terms with the 



enemy, and sold their birthright for very 
bad pottage. They must also be extra- 
ordinarily stupid. I can quite understand a 
man accepting laws that protect private 
property, and admit of its accumulation, as 
long as he himself is able under those con - 
ditions to realise some form of beautiful 
and intellectual life. But it is almost in- 
credible to me how a man whose life is 
marred and made hideous by such laws can 
possibly acquiesce in their continuance. 

However, the explanation is not really 
difficult to find. It is simply this. Misery 
and poverty are so absolutely degrading, 
and exercise such a paralysing effect over 
the nature of men, that no class is ever 
really conscious of its own suffering. They 
have to be told of it by other people, and 
they often entirely disbelieve them. What 
is said by great employers of labour against 



agitators is unquestionably true. Agitators 
are a set of interfering, meddling people, 
who come down to some perfectly con- 
tented class of the community, and sow 
the seeds of discontent amongst them. 
That is the reason why agitators are so 
absolutely necessary. Without them, in our 
incomplete state, there would be no advance 
towards civilisation. Slavery was put down 
in America, not in consequence of any action 
on the part of the slaves, or even any express 
desire on their part that they should be 
free. It was put down entirely through the 
grossly illegal conduct of certain agitators 
in Boston and elsewhere, who were not slaves 
themselves, nor owners of slaves, nor had 
anything to do with the question really. 
It was, undoubtedly, the Abolitionists who 
set the torch alight, who began the whole 
thing. And it is curious to note that from 



the slaves themselves they received, not 
merely very little assistance, but hardly any 
sympathy even ; and when at the close of 
the war the slaves found themselves free, 
found themselves indeed so absolutely free 
that they were free to starve, many of them 
bitterly regretted the new state of things. 
To the thinker, the most tragic fact in the 
whole of the French Revolution is not that 
Marie Antoinette was killed for being a 
queen, but that the starved peasant of the 
Vendee voluntarily went out to die for the 
hideous cause of feudalism. 

It is clear, then, that no Authoritarian 
Socialism will do. For while under the 
present system a very large number of 
people can lead lives of a certain amount of 
freedom and expression and happiness, under 
an industrial-barrack system, or a system of 
economic tyranny, nobody would be able to 



have any such freedom at all. It is to be 
regretted that a portion of our community 
should be practically in slavery, but to 
propose to solve the problem by enslaving 
the entire community is childish. Every 
man must be left quite free to choose his 
own work. No form of compulsion must 
be exercised over him. If there is, his work 
will not be good for him, will not be good 
in itself, and will not be good for others. 
And by work I simply mean activity of any 

I hardly think that any Socialist, now- 
adays, would seriously propose that an in- 
spector should call every morning at each 
house to see that each citizen rose up 
and did manual labour for eight hours. 
Humanity has got beyond that stage, and 
reserves such a form of life for the people 
whom, in a very arbitrary manner, it chooses 



to call criminals. But I confess that many 
of the socialistic views that I have come 
across seem to me to be tainted with ideas 
of authority, if not of actual compulsion. 
Of course, authority and compulsion are out 
of the question. All association must be 
quite voluntary. It is only in voluntary 
associations that man is fine. 

But it may be asked how Individualism, 
which is now more or less dependent on the 
existence of private property for its develop- 
ment, will benefit by the abolition of such 
private property. The answer is very simple. 
It is true that, under existing conditions, a 
few men who have had private means of 
their own, such as Byron, Shelley, Browning, 
Victor Hugo, Baudelaire, and others, have 
been able to realise their personality more or 
less completely. Not one of these men ever 
did a single day's work for hire. They were 



relieved from poverty. They had an im- 
mense advantage. The question is whether 
it would be for the good of Individualism 
that such an advantage should be taken 
away. Let us suppose that it is taken away. 
What happens then to Individualism ? How 
will it benefit ? 

It will benefit in this way. Under the 
new conditions Individualism will be far 
freer, far finer, and far more intensified 
than it is now. I am not talking of the 
great imaginatively-realised Individualism of 
such poets as I have mentioned, but of the 
great actual Individualism latent and poten- 
tial in mankind generally. For the recogni- 
tion of private property has really harmed 
Individualism, and obscured it, by confusing 
a man with what he possesses. It has led 
Individualism entirely astray. It has made 
gain, not growth, its aim. So that man 

17 c 


thought that the important thing was to 
have, and did not know that the important 
thing is to be. The true perfection of man 
lies, not in what man has, but in what man 
is. Private property has crushed true In- 
dividualism, and set up an Individualism that 
is false. It has debarred one part of the 
community from being individual by starving 
them. It has debarred the other part of the 
community from being individual by putting 
them on the wrong road, and encumbering 
them. Indeed, so completely has man's 
personality been absorbed by his possessions 
that the English law has always treated 
offences against a man's property with far 
more severity than offences against his per- 
son, and property is still the test of com- 
plete citizenship. The industry necessary 
for the making of money is also very de- 
moralising. In a community like ours, 



where property confers immense distinction, 
social position, honour, respect, titles, and 
other pleasant things of the kind, man, 
being naturally ambitious, makes it his aim 
to accumulate this property, and goes on 
wearily and tediously accumulating it long 
after he has got far more than he wants, or 
can use, or enjoy, or perhaps even know of. 
Man will kill himself by overwork in order 
to secure property, and really, considering 
the enormous advantages that property 
brings, one is hardly surprised. One's regret 
is that society should be constructed on such 
a basis that man has been forced into a 
groove in which he cannot freely develop 
what is wonderful, and fascinating, and de- 
lightful in him in which, in fact, he misses 
the true pleasure and joy of living. He is 
also, under existing conditions, very insecure. 
An enormously wealthy merchant may be 



often is at every moment of his life at the 
mercy of things that are not under his control. 
If the wind blows an extra point or so, or 
the weather suddenly changes, or some trivial 
thing happens, his ship may go down, his 
speculations may go wrong, and he finds 
himself a poor man, with his social position 
quite gone. Now, nothing should be able 
to harm a man except himself. Nothing 
should be able to rob a man at all. What a 
man really has, is what is in him. What is 
outside of him should be a matter of no im- 

With the abolition of private property, 
then, we shall have true, beautiful, healthy 
Individualism. Nobody will waste his life 
in accumulating things, and the symbols for 
things. One will live. To live is the rarest 
thing in the world. Most people exist, that 

is all. 



It is a question whether we have ever 
seen the full expression of a personality, 
except on the imaginative plane of art. 
In action, we never have. Cassar, says 
Mommsen, was the complete and perfect 
man. But how tragically insecure was 
Caesar ! Wherever there is a man who 
exercises authority, there is a man who 
resists authority. Caesar was very perfect, 
but his perfection travelled by too dangerous 
a road. Marcus Aurelius was the perfect 
man, says Renan. Yes ; the great emperor 
was a perfect man. But how intolerable 
were the endless claims upon him ! He 
staggered under the burden of the empire. 
He was conscious how inadequate one man 
was to bear the weight of that Titan and 
too vast orb. What I mean by a perfect 
man is one who develops under perfect con- 
ditions; one who is not wounded, or worried 



or maimed, or in danger. Most person- 
alities have been obliged to be rebels. Half 
their strength has been wasted in friction. 
Byron's personality, for instance, was ter- 
ribly wasted in its battle with the stupidity, 
and hypocrisy and Philistinism of the 
English. Such battles do not always inten- 
sify strength ; they often exaggerate weak- 
ness. Byron was never able to give us 
what he might have given us. Shelley 
escaped better. Like Byron, he got out of 
England as soon as possible. But he was 
not so well known. If the English had 
realised what a great poet he really was, 
they would have fallen on him with tooth 
and nail, and made his life as unbearable 
to him as they possibly could. But he 
was not a remarkable figure in society, and 
consequently he escaped, to a certain degree. 
Still, even in Shelley the note of rebellion is 



sometimes too strong. The note of the 
perfect personality is not rebellion, but 

It will be a marvellous thing the true 
personality of man when we see it. It 
will grow naturally and simply, flower-like, 
or as a tree grows. It will not be at discord. 
It will never argue or dispute. It will not 
prove things. It will know everything. 
And yet it will not busy itself about know- 
ledge. It will have wisdom. Its value 
will not be measured by material things. 
It will have nothing. And yet it will have 
everything, and whatever one takes from it, 
it will still have, so rich will it be. It will not 
be always meddling with others, or asking 
them to be like itself. It will love them 
because they will be different. And yet 
while it will not meddle with others, it 
will help all, as a beautiful thing helps us, 



by being what it is. The personality of 
man will be very wonderful. It will be as 
wonderful as the personality of a child. 

In its development it will be assisted 
by Christianity, if men desire that ; but if 
men do not desire that, it will develop 
none the less surely. For it will not worry 
itself about the past, nor care whether 
things happened or did not happen. Nor 
will it admit any laws but its own laws ; 
nor any authority but its own authority. 
Yet it will love those who sought to inten- 
sify it, and speak often of them. And of 
these Christ was one. 

' Know thyself ' was written over the 
portal of the antique world. Over the 
portal of the new world, * Be thyself ' shall 
be written. And the message of Christ to 
man was simply ' Be thyself.' That is the 
secret of Christ. 



When Jesus talks about the poor he 
simply means personalities, just as when 
he talks about the rich he simply means 
people who have not developed their person- 
alities. Jesus moved in a community that 
allowed the accumulation of private pro- 
perty just as ours does, and the gospel that 
he preached was, not that in such a com- 
munity it is an advantage for a man to 
live on scanty, unwholesome food, to wear 
ragged, unwholesome clothes, to sleep in 
horrid, unwholesome dwellings, and a dis- 
advantage for a man to live under healthy, 
pleasant, and decent conditions. Such a 
view would have been wrong there and 
then, and would, of course, be still more 
wrong now and in England ; for as man 
moves northward the material necessities of 
life become of more vital importance, and 
our society is infinitely more complex, and 


displays far greater extremes of luxury and 
pauperism than any society of the antique 
world. What Jesus meant, was this. He 
said to man, * You have a wonderful person- 
ality. Develop it. Be yourself. Don't 
imagine that your perfection lies in accu- 
mulating or possessing external things. 
Your affection is inside of you. If only 
you could realise that, you would not want 
to be rich. Ordinary riches can be stolen 
from a man. Real riches cannot. In the 
treasury- house of your soul, there are infi- 
nitely precious things, that may not be taken 
from you. And so, try to so shape your 
life that external things will not harm you. 
And try also to get rid of personal pro- 
perty. It involves sordid preoccupation, 
endless industry, continual wrong. Per- 
sonal property hinders Individualism at 
every step.' It is to be noted that Jesus 



never says that impoverished people are 
necessarily good, or wealthy people neces- 
sarily bad. That would not have been 
true. Wealthy people are, as a class, better 
than impoverished people, more moral, more 
intellectual, more well-behaved. There is 
only one class in the community that thinks 
more about money than the rich, and that 
is the poor. The poor can think of nothing 
else. That is the misery of being poor. 
What Jesus does say, is that man reaches 
his perfection, not through what he has, not 
even through what he does, but entirely 
through what he is. And so the wealthy 
young man who comes to Jesus is repre- 
sented as a thoroughly good citizen, who 
has broken none of the laws of his state, 
none of the commandments of his religion. 
He is quite respectable, in the ordinary 
sense of that extraordinary word. Jesus 



says to him, * You should give up private 
property. It hinders you from realising 
your perfection. It is a drag upon you. 
It is a burden. Your personality does not 
need it. It is within you, and not outside 
of you, that you will find what you really 
are, and what you really want.' To his own 
friends he says the same thing. He tells 
them to be themselves, and not to be always 
worrying about other things. What do 
other things matter ? Man is complete in 
himself. When they go into the world, 
the world will disagree with them. That 
is inevitable. The world hates Individu- 
alism. But that is not to trouble them. 
They are to be calm and self-centred. If 
a man takes their cloak, they are to give 
him their coat, just to show that material 
things are of no importance. If people 
abuse them, they are not to answer back. 



What does it signify ? The things people 
say of a man do not alter a man. He is 
what he is. Public opinion is of no value 
whatsoever. Even if people employ actual 
violence, they are not to be violent in turn. 
That would be to fall to the same low level. 
After all, even in prison, a man can be quite 
free. His soul can be free. His personality 
can be untroubled. He can be at peace. 
And, above all things, they are not to inter- 
fere with other people or judge them in any 
way. Personality is a very mysterious thing. 
A man cannot always be estimated by what 
he does. He may keep the law, and yet be 
worthless. He may break the law, and yet 
be fine. He may be bad, without ever 
doing anything bad. He may commit a sin 
against society, and yet realise through that 
sin his true perfection. 

There was a woman who was taken in 


adultery. We are not told the history of 
her love, but that love must have been very 
great ; for Jesus said that her sins were for- 
given her, not because she repented, but 
because her love was so intense and won- 
derful. Later on, a short time before his 
death, as he sat at a feast, the woman came 
in and poured costly perfumes on his hair. 
His friends tried to interfere with her, and 
said that it was extravagance, and that the 
money that the perfume cost should have 
been expended on charitable relief of people 
in want, or something of that kind. Jesus 
did not accept that view. He pointed out 
that the material needs of Man were great 
and very permanent, but that the spiritual 
needs of Man were greater still, and that in 
one divine moment, and by selecting its 
own mode of expression, a personality 
might make itself perfect. The world 



worships the woman, even now, as a 

Yes ; there are suggestive things in In- 
dividualism. Socialism annihilates family 
life, for instance. With the abolition of 
private property, marriage in its present 
form must disappear. This is part of the 
programme. Individualism accepts this and 
makes it fine. It converts the abolition of 
legal restraint into a form of freedom that 
will help the full development of per- 
sonality, and make the love of man and 
woman more wonderful, more beautiful, and 
more ennobling. Jesus knew this. He re- 
jected the claims of family life, although 
they existed in his day and community in a 
very marked form. * Who is my mother ? 
Who are my brothers ? ' he said, when he 
was told that they wished to speak to him. 
When one of his followers asked leave to 



go and bury his father, l Let the dead bury 
the dead,' was his terrible answer. He 
would allow no claim whatsoever to be 
made on personality. 

And so he who would lead a Christlike 
life is he who is perfectly and absolutely 
himself. He may be a great poet, or a 
great man of science; or a young student 
at a University, or one who watches sheep 
upon a moor; or a maker of dramas, like 
Shakespeare, or a thinker about God, like 
Spinoza ; or a child who plays in a garden, 
or a fisherman who throws his net into the 
sea. It does not matter what he is, as long 
as he realises the perfection of the soul that 
is within him. All imitation in morals and 
in life is wrong. Through the streets of 
Jerusalem at the present day crawls one 
who is mad and carries a wooden cross on 
his shoulders. He is a symbol of the lives 



that are marred by imitation. Father 
Damien was Christlike when he went out 
to live with the lepers, because in such ser- 
vice he realised fully what was best in him. 
But he was not more Christlike than 
Wagner when he realised his soul in music ; 
or than Shelley, when he realised his soul in 
song. There is no one type for man. There 
are as many perfections as there are im- 
perfect men. And while to the claims of 
charity a man may yield and yet be free, 
to the claims of conformity no man may 
yield and remain free at all. 

Individualism, then, is what through 
Socialism we are to attain. As a natural 
result the State must give up all idea of 
government. It must give it up because, 
as a wise man once said many centuries 
before Christ, there is such a thing as leav- 
ing mankind alone ; there is no such thing 

33 p 


as governing mankind. All modes of 
government are failures. Despotism is 
unjust to everybody, including the despot, 
who was probably made for better things. 
Oligarchies are unjust to the many, and 
ochlocracies are unjust to the few. High 
hopes were once formed of democracy ; but 
democracy means simply the bludgeoning 
of the people by the people for the people. 
It has been found out. I must say that it 
was high time, for all authority is quite 
degrading. It degrades those who exercise 
it, and degrades those over whom it is exer- 
cised. When it is violently, grossly, and 
cruelly used, it produces a good effect, by 
creating, or at any rate bringing out, the 
spirit of revolt and Individualism that is to 
kill it. When it is used with a certain 
amount of kindness, and accompanied by 
prizes and rewards, it is dreadfully demoral- 



ising. People, in that case, are less con- 
scious of the horrible pressure that is being 
put on them, and so go through their lives 
in a sort of coarse comfort, like petted 
animals, without ever realising that they are 
probably thinking other people's thoughts, 
living by other people's standards, wearing 
practically what one may call other people's 
second-hand clothes, and never being them- 
selves for a single moment. ' He who 
would be free,' says a fine thinker, 'must 
not conform.' And authority, by bribing 
people to conform, produces a very gross 
kind of over-fed barbarism amongst us. 

With authority, punishment will pass 
away. This will be a great gain a gain, in 
fact, of incalculable value. As one reads 
history, not in the expurgated editions 
written for schoolboys and passmen, but in 
the original authorities of each time, one is 



absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that 
the wicked have committed, but by the 
punishments that the good have inflicted ; 
and a community is infinitely more bru- 
talised by the habitual employment of 
punishment, than it is by the occurrence of 
crime. It obviously follows that the more 
punishment is inflicted the more crime is 
produced, and most modern legislation has 
clearly recognised this, and has made it its 
task to diminish punishment as far as it 
thinks it can. Wherever it has really 
diminished it, the results have always been 
extremely good. The less punishment, the 
less crime. When there is no punishment 
at all, crime will either cease to exist, or, if 
it occurs, will be treated by physicians as a 
very distressing form of dementia, to be 
cured by care and kindness. For what are 
called criminals nowadays are not criminals 



at all. Starvation, and not sin, is the 
parent of modern crime. That indeed is 
the reason why our criminals are, as a 
class, so absolutely uninteresting from any 
psychological point of view. They are not 
marvellous Macbeths and terrible Vautrins. 
They are merely what ordinary, respectable, 
commonplace people would be if they had 
not got enough to eat. When private 
property is abolished there will be no 
necessity for crime, no demand for it ; it 
will cease to exist. Of course, all crimes 
are not crimes against property, though 
such are the crimes that the English law, 
valuing what a man has more than what a 
man is, punishes with the harshest and most 
horrible severity (if we except the crime of 
murder, and regard deatli as worse than 
penal servitude, a point on which our 
criminals, I believe, disagree). But though 



a crime may not be against property, it may 
spring from the misery and rage and de- 
pression produced by our wrong system of 
property-holding, and so, when that system 
is abolished, will disappear. When each 
member of the community has sufficient for 
his wants, and is not interfered with by his 
neighbour, it will not be an object of any 
interest to him to interfere with anyone 
else. Jealousy, which is an extraordinary 
source of crime in modern life, is an 
emotion closely bound up with our con- 
ceptions of property, and under Socialism 
and Individualism will die out. It is re- 
markable that in communistic tribes 
jealousy is entirely unknown. 

Now as the State is not to govern, it 
may be asked what the State is to do. The 
State is to be a voluntary association that 
will organize labour, and be the manufac- 



turer and distributor of necessary commo- 
dities. The State is to make what is useful. 
The individual is to make what is beautiful. 
And as I have mentioned the word labour, 
I cannot help saying that a great deal of 
nonsense is being written and talked now- 
adays about the dignity of manual labour. 
There is nothing necessarily dignified about 
manual labour at all, and most of it is 
absolutely degrading. It is mentally and 
morally injurious to man to do anything in 
which he does not find pleasure, and many 
forms of labour are quite pleas ureless 
activities, and should be regarded as such. 
To sweep a slushy crossing for eight hours 
on a day when the east wind is blowing is 
a disgusting occupation. To sweep it with 
mental, moral, or physical dignity seems to 
me to be impossible. To sweep it with joy 
would be appalling. Man is made for 



something better than disturbing dirt. All 
work of that kind should be done by a 

And I have no doubt that it will be so. 
Up to the present, man has been, to a 
certain extent, the slave of machinery, and 
there is something tragic in the fact that as 
soon as man had invented a machine to do 
his work he began to starve. This, how- 
ever, is, of course, the result of our 
property system and our system of com- 
petition. One man owns a machine which 
does the work of five hundred men. Five 
hundred men are, in consequence, thrown 
out of employment, and, having no work to 
do, become hungry and take to thieving. 
The one man secures the produce of the 
machine and keeps it, and has five hundred 
times as much as he should have, and 
probably, which is of much more impor- 



tance, a great deal more than he really 
wants. Were that machine the property of 
all, everybody would benefit by it. It 
would be an immense advantage to the 
community. All unintellectual labour, all 
monotonous, dull labour, all labour that 
deals with dreadful things, and involves 
unpleasant conditions, must be done by 
machinery. Machinery must work for us in 
coal mines, and do all sanitary services, and 
be the stoker of steamers, and clean the 
streets, and run messages on wet days, and 
do anything that is tedious or distressing. 
At present machinery competes against 
man. Under proper conditions machinery 
will serve man. There is no doubt at all 
that this is the future of machinery; and just 
as trees grow while the country gentleman 
is asleep, so while Humanity will be 
amusing itself, or enjoying cultivated leisure 



which, and not labour, is the aim of man 
or making beautiful things, or reading 
beautiful things, or simply contemplating 
the world with admiration and delight, 
machinery will be doing all the necessary 
and unpleasant work. The fact is, that 
civilisation requires slaves. The Greeks 
were quite right there. Unless there are 
slaves to do the ugly, horrible, uninteresting 
work, culture and contemplation become 
almost impossible. Human slavery is 
wrong, insecure, and demoralising. On 
mechanical slavery, on the slavery of the 
machine, the future of the world depends. 
And when scientific men are no longer 
called upon to go down to a depressing 
East End and distribute bad cocoa and 
worse blankets to starving people, they will 
have delightful leisure in which to devise 
wonderful and marvellous things for their 



own joy and the joy of every one else. 
There will be great storages of force for 
every city, and for every house if required, 
and this force man will convert into heat, 
light, or motion, according to his needs. Is 
this Utopian ? A map of the world that 
does not include Utopia is not worth even 
glancing at, for it leaves out the one country 
at which Humanity is always landing. 
And when Humanity lands there, it looks 
out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail. 
Progress is the realisation of Utopias. 

Now, I have said that the community by 
means of organization of machinery will 
supply the useful things, and that the 
beautiful things will be made by the indivi- 
dual. This is not merely necessary, but it is 
the only possible way by which we can get 
either the one or the other. An individual 
who has to make things for the use of others, 



and with reference to their wants and their 
wishes, does not work with interest, and con- 
sequently cannot put into his work what is 
best in him. Upon the other hand, when- 
ever a community or a powerful section of a 
community, or a government of any kind, 
attempts to dictate to the artist what he is 
to do, Art either entirely vanishes, or be- 
comes stereotyped, or degenerates into a low 
and ignoble form of craft. A work of art is 
the unique result of a unique temperament. 
Its beauty comes from the fact that the 
author is what he is. It has nothing to do 
with the fact that other people want what 
they want. Indeed, the moment that an 
artist takes notice of what other people want, 
and tries to supply the demand, he ceases to 
be an artist, and becomes a dull or an 
amusing craftsman, an honest or a dishonest 
tradesman. He has no further claim to be 



considered as an artist. Art is the most 
intense mode of Individualism that the world 
has known. I am inclined to say that it is 
the only real mode of Individualism that the 
world has known. Crime, which, under 
certain conditions, may seem to have created 
Individualism, must take cognisance of other 
people and interfere with them. It belongs 
to the sphere of action. But alone, without 
any reference to his neighbours, without any 
interference, the artist can fashion a beautiful 
thing ; and if he does not do it solely for his 
own pleasure, he is not an artist at all. 

And it is to be noted that it is the fact 
that Art is this intense form of Individual- 
ism that makes the public try to exercise 
over it an authority that is as immoral as 
it is ridiculous, and as corrupting as it is con- 
temptible. It is not quite their fault. The 
public has always, and in every age, been 



badly brought up. They are continually 
asking Art to be popular, to please their 
want of taste, to flatter their absurd vanity, 
to tell them what they have been told before, 
to show them what they ought to be tired of 
seeing, to amuse them when they feel heavy 
after eating too much, and to distract their 
thoughts when they are wearied of their own 
stupidity. Now Art should never try to be 
popular. The public should try to make 
itself artistic. There is a very wide difference. 
If a man of science were told that the results 
of his experiments, and the conclusions that 
he arrived at, should be of such a character 
that they would not upset the received 
popular notions on the subject, or disturb 
popular prejudice, or hurt the sensibilities of 
people who knew nothing about science ; if a 
philosopher were told that he had a perfect 
right to speculate in the highest spheres of 



thought, provided that he arrived at the same 
conclusions as were held by those who had 
never thought in any sphere at all well, 
nowadays the man of science and the philo- 
sopher would be considerably amused. Yet 
it is really a very few years since both philo- 
sophy and science were subjected to brutal 
popular control, to authority in fact the 
authority of either the general ignorance of 
the community, or the terror and greed for 
power of an ecclesiastical or governmental 
class. Of course, we have to a very great 
extent got rid of any attempt on the part 
of the community, or the Church, or the 
Government, to interfere with the indivi- 
dualism of speculative thought, but the 
attempt to interfere with the individualism 
of imaginative art still lingers. In fact, it 
does more than linger ; it is aggressive, 
offensive, and brutalising. 



In England, the arts that have escaped 
best are the arts in which the public take 
no interest. Poetry is an instance of what 
I mean. We have been able to have fine 
poetry in England because the public do not 
read it, and consequently do not influence it. 
The public like to insult poets because they 
are individual, but once they have insulted 
them, they leave them alone. In the case 
of the novel and the drama, arts in which 
the public do take an interest, the result of 
the exercise of popular authority has been 
absolutely ridiculous. No country produces 
such badly-written fiction, such tedious, 
common work in the novel form, such silly, 
vulgar plays as England. It must neces- 
sarily be so. The popular standard is of 
such a character that no artist can get to it. 
It is at once too easy and too difficult to be 
a popular novelist. It is too easy, because 



the requirements of the public as far as plot, 
style, psychology, treatment of life, and 
treatment of literature are concerned are 
within the reach of the very meanest capacity 
and the most uncultivated mind. It is too 
difficult, because to meet such requirements 
the artist would have to do violence to his 
temperament, would have to write not for 
the artistic joy of writing, but for the amuse- 
ment of half-educated people, and so would 
have to suppress his individualism, forget his 
culture, annihilate his style, and surrender 
everything that is valuable in him. In the 
case of the drama, things are a little better : 
the theatre-going public like the obvious, it 
is true, but they do not like the tedious ; 
and burlesque and farcical comedy, the two 
most popular forms, are distinct forms of art. 
Delightful work may be produced under 
burlesque and farcical conditions, and in 

49 E 


work of this kind the artist in England is 
allowed very great freedom. It is when one 
comes to the higher forms of the drama that 
the result of popular control is seen. The 
one thing that the public dislike is novelty. 
Any attempt to extend the subject-matter of 
art is extremely distasteful to the public ; 
and yet the vitality and progress of art 
depend in a large measure on the continual 
extension of subject-matter. The public 
dislike novelty because they are afraid of it. 
It represents to them a mode of Individual- 
ism, an assertion on the part of the artist 
that he selects his own subject, and treats it 
as he chooses. The public are quite right in 
their attitude. Art is Individualism, and 
Individualism is a disturbing and disinte- 
grating force. Therein lies its immense 
value. For what it seeks to disturb is 
monotony of type, slavery of custom, 



tyranny of habit, and the reduction of man 
to the level of a machine. In Art, the 
public accept what has been, because they 
cannot alter it, not because they appreciate 
it. They swallow their classics whole, and 
never taste them. They endure them as the 
inevitable, and as they cannot mar them, 
they mouth about them. Strangely enough, 
or not strangely, according to one's own 
views, this acceptance of the classics does a 
great deal of harm. The uncritical admira- 
tion of the Bible and Shakespeare in England 
is an instance of what I mean. With regard 
to the Bible, considerations of ecclesiastical 
authority enter into the matter, so that I 
need not dwell upon the point. 

But in the case of Shakespeare it is quite 
obvious that the public really see neither the 
beauties nor the defects of his plays. If they 
saw the beauties, they would not object to 



the development of the drama ; and if they 
saw the defects, they would not object to the 
development of the drama either. The fact 
is, the public make use of the classics of a 
country as a means of checking the progress 
of Art. They degrade the classics into 
authorities. They use them as bludgeons 
for preventing the free expression of Beauty 
in new forms. They are always asking a 
writer why he does not write like somebody 
else, or a painter why he does not paint like 
somebody else, quite oblivious of the fact 
that if either of them did anything of the 
kind he would cease to be an artist. A fresh 
mode of Beauty is absolutely distasteful to 
them, and whenever it appears they get so 
angry and bewildered that they always use 
two stupid expressions one is that the work 
of art is grossly unintelligible ; the other, 
that the work of art is grossly immoral. 



What they mean by these words seems to me 
to be this. When they say a work is grossly 
unintelligible, they mean that the artist has 
said or made a beautiful thing that is new ; 
when they describe a work as grossly im- 
moral, they mean that the artist has said or 
made a beautiful thing that is true. The 
former expression has reference to style ; the 
latter to subject-matter. But they probably 
use the words very vaguely, as an ordinary 
mob will use ready-made paving-stones. 
There is not a single real poet or prose- 
writer of this century, for instance, on whom 
the British public have not solemnly con- 
ferred diplomas of immorality, and these 
diplomas practically take the place, with us, 
of what in France is the formal recognition 
of an Academy of Letters, and fortunately 
make the establishment of such an institution 
quite unnecessary in England. Of course, the 



public are very reckless in their use of the 
word. That they should have called Words- 
worth an immoral poet, was only to be ex- 
pected. Wordsworth was a poet. But that 
they should have called Charles Kingsley an 
immoral novelist is extraordinary. Kingsley 's 
prose was not of a very fine quality. Still, 
there is the word, and they use it as best 
they can. An artist is, of course, not dis- 
turbed by it. The true artist is a man who 
believes absolutely in himself, because he is 
absolutely himself. But I can fancy that if 
an artist produced a work of art in England 
that immediately on its appearance was 
recognised by the public, through their 
medium, which is the public press, as a work 
that was quite intelligible and highly moral, 
he would begin seriously to question whether 
in its creation he had really been himself at 
all, and consequently whether the work was 



not quite unworthy of him, and either of a 
thoroughly second-rate order, or of no artistic 
value whatsoever. 

Perhaps, however, I have wronged the 
public in limiting them to such words as 

* immoral,' ' unintelligible,' * exotic,' and 

* unhealthy.' There is one other word that 
they use. That word is ' morbid.' They 
do not use it often. The meaning of the 
word is so simple that they are afraid of 
using it. Still, they use it sometimes, and, 
now and then, one comes across it in 
popular newspapers. It is, of course, a 
ridiculous word to apply to a work of art. 
For what is morbidity but a mood of emo- 
tion or a mode of thought that one cannot 
express ? The public are all morbid, be- 
cause the public can never find expression 
for anything. The artist is never morbid. 
He expresses everything. He stands out- 



side his subject, and through its medium 
produces incomparable and artistic effects. 
To call an artist morbid because he deals 
with morbidity as his subject-matter is as 
silly as if one called Shakespeare mad be- 
cause he wrote ' King Lear.' 

On the whole, an artist in England 
gains something by being attacked. His 
individuality is intensified. He becomes 
more completely himself. Of course, the 
attacks are very gross, very impertinent, 
and very contemptible. But then no artist 
expects grace from the vulgar mind, or style 
from the suburban intellect. Vulgarity 
and stupidity are two very vivid facts in 
modern life. One regrets them, naturally. 
But there they are. They are subjects for 
study, like everything else. And it is only 
fair to state, with regard to modern jour- 
nalists, that they always apologise to one 



in private for what they have written 
against one in public. 

Within the last few years two other 
adjectives, it may be mentioned, have been 
added to the very limited vocabulary of 
art-abuse that is at the disposal of the 
public. One is the word ' unhealthy,' the 
the other is the word ' exotic.' The latter 
merely expresses the rage of the momen- 
tary mushroom against the immortal, en- 
trancing, and exquisitely lovely orchid. It 
is a tribute, but a tribute of no importance. 
The word ' unhealthy,' however, admits of 
analysis. It is a rather interesting word. 
In fact, it is so interesting that the people 
who use it do not know what it means. 

What does it mean ? What is a healthy 
or an unhealthy work of art ? All terms 
that one applies to a work of art, provided 
that one applies them rationally, have re- 



ference to either its style or its subject, or 
to both together. From the point of view 
of style, a healthy work of art is one 
whose style recognises the beauty of the 
material it employs, be that material one 
of words or of bronze, of colour or of ivory, 
and uses that beauty as a factor in producing 
the aesthetic effect. From the point of view 
of subject, a healthy work of art is one the 
choice of whose subject is conditioned by 
the temperament of the artist, and comes 
directly out of it. In fine, a healthy work 
of art is one that has both perfection and 
personality. Of course, form and substance 
cannot be separated in a work of art ; 
they are always one. But for purposes of 
analysis, and setting the wholeness of 
aesthetic impression aside for a moment, 
we can intellectually so separate them. 
An unhealthy work of art, on the other 



hand, is a work whose style is obvious, 
old - fashioned, and common, and whose 
subject is deliberately chosen, not because 
the artist has any pleasure in it, but be- 
cause he thinks that the public will pay 
him for it. In fact, the popular novel that 
the public calls healthy is always a 
thoroughly unhealthy production; and what 
the public call an unhealthy novel is always 
a beautiful and healthy work of art. 

I need hardly say that I am not, for a 
single moment, complaining that the public 
and the public press misuse these words. 
I do not see how, with their lack of com- 
prehension of what Art is, they could pos- 
sibly use them in the proper sense. I am 
merely pointing out the misuse ; and as 
for the origin of the misuse and the mean- 
ing that lies behind it all, the explanation 
is very simple. It comes from the bar- 



barous conception of authority. It comes 
from the natural inability of a com- 
munity corrupted by authority to under- 
stand or appreciate Individualism. In a 
word, it comes from that monstrous and 
ignorant thing that is called Public Opinion, 
which, bad and well-meaning as it is when 
it tries to control action, is infamous and 
of evil meaning when it tries to control 
Thought or Art. 

Indeed, there is much more to be said 
in favour of the physical force of the public 
than there is in favour of the public's 
opinion. The former may be fine. The 
latter must be foolish. It is often said that 
force is no argument. That, however, en- 
tirely depends on what one wants to prove. 
Many of the most important problems of 
the last few centuries, such as the con- 
tinuance of personal government in Eng- 



land, or of feudalism in France, have been 
solved entirely by means of physical force. 
The very violence of a revolution may 
make the public grand and splendid for 
a moment. It was a fatal day when the 
public discovered that the pen is mightier 
than the paving-stone, and can be made 
as offensive as the brickbat. They at once 
sought for the journalist, found him, de- 
veloped him, and made him their indus- 
trious and well-paid servant. It is greatly 
to be regretted, for both their sakes. Be- 
hind the barricade there may be much 
that is noble and heroic. But what is there 
behind the leading-article but prejudice, 
stupidity, cant, and twaddle ? And when 
these four are joined together they make 
a terrible force, and constitute the new 
authority. . 

In old days men had the rack. JS T ow 


they have the press. That is an improve- 
ment certainly. But still it is very bad, 
and wrong, and demoralising. Somebody 
was it Burke? called journalism the 
fourth estate. That was true at the time, 
no doubt. But at the present moment it 
really is the only estate. It has eaten up 
the other three. The Lords Temporal say 
nothing, the Lords Spiritual have nothing 
to say, and the House of Commons has 
nothing to say and says it. We are domi- 
nated by Journalism. In America the 
President reigns for four years, and Jour- 
nalism governs for ever and ever. Fortu- 
nately, in America, Journalism has carried 
its authority to the grossest and most brutal 
extreme. As a natural consequence it has 
begun to create a spirit of revolt. People 
are amused by it, or disgusted by it, ac- 
cording to their temperaments. But it is 



no longer the real force it was. It is not 
seriously treated. In England, Journalism, 
except in a few well-known instances, not 
having been carried to such excesses of 
brutality, is still a great factor, a really 
remarkable power. The tyranny that it 
proposes to exercise over people's private 
lives seems to me to be quite extraordinary. 
The fact is that the public have an in- 
satiable curiosity to know everything, ex- 
cept what is worth knowing. Journalism, 
conscious of this, and having tradesman-like 
habits, supplies their demands. In cen- 
turies before ours the public nailed the ears 
of journalists to the pump. That was quite 
hideous. In this century journalists have 
nailed their own ears to the keyhole. That 
is much worse. And what aggravates the 
mischief is that the journalists who are most 
to blame are not the amusing journalists 



who write for what are called Society 
papers. The harm is done by the serious, 
thoughtful, earnest journalist, who solemnly, 
as they are doing at present, will drag be- 
fore the eyes of the public some incident 
in the private life of a great statesman, ot 
a man who is a leader of political thought 
as he is a creator of political force, and 
invite the public to discuss the incident, to 
exercise authority in the matter, to give 
their view's : and not merely to give their 
views, but to carry them into action, to 
dictate to the man upon all other points, 
to dictate to his party, to dictate to his 
country ; in fact, to make themselves 
ridiculous, offensive, and harmful. The 
private lives of men and women should not 
be told to the public. The public have 
nothing to do with them at all. 

In France they manage these things 


better. There they do not allow the de- 
tails of the trials that take place in the 
divorce courts to be published for the 
amusement or criticism of the public. All 
that the public are allowed to know is 
that the divorce has taken place and was 
granted on petition of one or other or 
both of the married parties concerned. In 
France, in fact, they limit the journalist, 
and allow the artist almost perfect freedom. 
Here we allow absolute freedom to the 
journalist, and entirely limit the artist. 
English public opinion, that is to say, tries 
to constrain and impede and warp the man 
who makes things that are beautiful in 
effect, and compels the journalist to retail 
things that are ugly, or disgusting, or 
revolting in fact, so that we have the 
most serious journalists in the world, 
and the most indecent newspapers. It is 

05 F 


no exaggeration to talk of compulsion. 
There are possibly some journalists who 
take a real pleasure in publishing horrible 
things, or who, being poor, look to scandals 
as forming a sort of permanent basis for an 
income. But there are other journalists, I 
feel certain, men of education and culti- 
vation, who really dislike publishing these 
things, who know that it is wrong to do 
so, and only do it because the unhealthy 
conditions under which their occupation is 
carried on, oblige them to supply the public 
with what the public wants, and to com- 
pete with other journalists in making that 
supply as full and satisfying to the gross 
popular appetite as possible. It is a very 
degrading position for any body of educated 
men to be placed in, and I have no doubt 
that most of them feel it acutely. 

However, let us leave what is really a 
very sordid side of the subject, and return 


to the question of popular control in the 
matter of Art, by which I mean Public 
Opinion dictating to the artist the form 
which he is to use, the mode in which he 
is to use it, and the materials with which 
he is to work. I have pointed out that 
the arts which have escaped best in 
England are the arts in which the public 
have not been interested. They are, how- 
ever, interested in the drama, and as a 
certain advance has been made in the 
drama within the last ten or fifteen years, 
it is important to point out that this ad- 
vance is entirely due to a few individual 
artists refusing to accept the popular want 
of taste as their standard, and refusing to 
regard Art as a mere matter of demand 
and supply. With his marvellous and 
vivid personality, with a style that has 
really a true colour-element in it, with his 
extraordinary power, not over mere mimicry 



but over imaginative and intellectual 
creation, Mr. Irving, had his sole object 
been to give the public what they wanted, 
could have produced the commonest plays 
in the commonest manner, and made as 
much success and money as a man could 
possibly desire. But his object was 
not that. His object was to realise his 
own perfection as an artist, under certain 
conditions and in certain forms of Art. 
At first he appealed to the few : now he 
has educated the many. He has created 
in the public both taste and temperament. 
The public appreciate his artistic success 
immensely. I often wonder, however, 
whether the public understand that that 
success is entirely due to the fact that he 
did not accept their standard, but realised 
his own. With their standard the Lyceum 
would have been a sort of second-rate 


booth, as some of the popular theatres in 
London are at present Whether they 
understand it or not, the fact however 
remains, that taste and temperament have, 
to a certain extent, been created in the 
public, and that the public is capable of 
developing these qualities. The problem 
then is, why do not the public become 
more civilised ? They have the capacity. 
What stops them ? 

The thing that stops them, it must be 
said again, is their desire to exercise au- 
thority over the artists and over works of 
art. To certain theatres, such as the 
Lyceum and the Haymarket, the public 
seem to come in a proper mood. In both 
of these theatres there have been individual 
artists, who have succeeded in creating in 
their audiences and every theatre in 
London has its own audience the tern- 


perament to which Art appeals. And what 
is that temperament ? It is the tempera- 
ment of receptivity. That is all. 

If a man approaches a work of art with 
any desire to exercise authority over it and 
the artist, he approaches it in such a spirit 
that he cannot receive any artistic im- 
pression from it at all. The work of art is 
to dominate the spectator : the spectator is 
not to dominate the work of art. The 
spectator is to be receptive. He is to be 
the violin on which the master is to play. 
And the more completely he can suppress 
his own silly views, his own foolish pre- 
judices, his own absurd ideas of what Art 
should be, or should not be, the more likely 
he is to understand and appreciate the work 
of art in question. This is, of course, quite 
obvious in the case of the vulgar theatre- 
going public of English men and women. 



But it is equally true of what are called 
educated people. For an educated per- 
son's ideas of Art are drawn naturally from 
what Art has been, whereas the new work 
of art is beautiful by being what Art has 
never been ; and to measure it by the 
standard of the past is to measure it by a 
standard on the rejection of which its real 
perfection depends. A temperament cap- 
able of receiving, through an imaginative 
medium, and under imaginative conditions, 
new and beautiful impressions, is the only 
temperament that can appreciate a work of 
art. And true as this is in a case of the 
appreciation of sculpture and painting, it is 
still more true of the appreciation of such 
arts as the drama. For a picture and a 
statue are not at war with Time. They 
take no account of its succession. In one 
moment their unity may be apprehended. 



In the case of literature it is different. 
Time must be traversed before the unity of 
effect is realised. And so, in the drama, 
there may occur in the first act of the play 
something whose real artistic value may not 
be evident to the spectator till the third or 
fourth act is reached. Is the silly fellow to 
get angry and call out, and disturb the play, 
and annoy the artists ? No. The honest 
man is to sit quietly, and know the delight- 
ful emotions of wonder, curiosity, and 
suspense. He is not to go to the play to 
lose a vulgar temper. He is to go to the 
play to realise an artistic temperament. He 
is to go to the play to gain an artistic 
temperament. He is not the arbiter of the 
work of art. He is one who is admitted to 
contemplate the work of art, and, if the 
work be fine, to forget in its contemplation 
all the egotism that mars him the egotism 


of his ignorance, or the egotism of his in- 
formation. The point about the drama is 
hardly, I think, sufficiently recognised. I 
can quite understand that were * Macbeth ' 
produced for the first time before a modern 
London audience, many of the people pre- 
sent would strongly and vigorously object 
to the introduction of the witches in the 
first act, with their grotesque phrases and 
their ridiculous words. But when the play 
is over one realises that the laughter of the 
witches in * Macbeth ' is as terrible as the 
laughter of madness in * Lear,' more terrible 
than the laughter of lago in the tragedy of 
the Moor. No spectator of art needs a 
more perfect mood of receptivity than the 
spectator of a play. The moment he seeks 
to exercise authority he becomes the avowed 
enemy of Art and of himself. Art does not 
mind. It is he who suffers. 



With the novel it is the same thing. 
Popular authority and the recognition of 
popular authority are fatal. Thackeray's 
' Esmond ' is a beautiful work of art be- 
cause he wrote it to please himself. In his 
other novels, in ' Pendennis,' in ' Philip,' in 
* Vanity Fair ' even, at times, he is too 
conscious of the public, and spoils his work 
by appealing directly to the sympathies of 
the public, or by directly mocking at them. 
A true artist takes no notice whatever of 
the public. The public are to him non- 
existent. He has no poppied or honeyed 
cakes through which to give the monster 
sleep or sustenance. He leaves that to 
the popular novelist. One incomparable 
novelist we have now in England, Mr. 
George Meredith. There are better artists 
in France, but France has no one whose 
view of life is so large, so varied, so imagin- 



atively true. There are tellers of stories in 
Russia who have a more vivid sense of what 
pain in fiction may be. But to him belongs 
philosophy in fiction. His people not merely 
live, but they live in thought. One can see 
them from myriad points of view. They are 
suggestive. There is soul in them and 
around them. They are interpretative and 
symbolic. And he who made them, those 
wonderful quickly-moving figures, made 
them for his own pleasure, and has never 
asked the public what they wanted, has never 
cared to know what they wanted, has never 
allowed the public to dictate to him or in- 
fluence him in any way, but has gone on in- 
tensifying his own personality, and pro- 
ducing his own individual work. At first 
none came to him. That did not matter. 
Then the few came to him. That did not 
change him. The many have come now. 



He is still the same. He is an incompar- 
able novelist. 

With the decorative arts it is not dif- 
ferent. The public clung with really 
pathetic tenacity to what 1 believe were 
the direct traditions of the Great Exhibition 
of international vulgarity, traditions that 
were so appalling that the houses in which 
people lived were only fit for blind people 
to live in. Beautiful things began to be 
made, beautiful colours came from the 
dyer's hand, beautiful patterns from the 
artist's brain, and the use of beautiful things 
and their value and importance were set 
forth. The public were really very indig- 
nant. They lost their temper. They said 
silly things. No one minded. No one was 
a whit the worse. No one accepted the 
authority of public opinion. And now it 
is almost impossible to enter any modern 



house without seeing some recognition of 
good taste, some recognition of the value 
of lovely surroundings, some sign of appre- 
ciation of beauty. In fact, people's houses 
are, as a rule, quite charming nowadays. 
People have been to a very great extent 
civilised. It is only fair to state, however, 
that the extraordinary success of the revo- 
lution in ho use -decoration and furniture and 
the like has not really been due to the ma- 
jority of the public developing a very fine 
taste in such matters. It has been chiefly 
due to the fact that the craftsmen of things 
so appreciated the pleasure of making what 
was beautiful, and woke to such a vivid 
consciousness of the hideousness and vul- 
garity of what the public had previously 
wanted, that they simply starved the public 
out. It would be quite impossible at the 
present moment to furnish a room as rooms 



were furnished a few years ago, without 
going for everything to an auction of 
second-hand furniture from some third-rate 
lodging-house. The things are no longer 
made. However they may object to it, 
people must nowadays have something 
charming in their surroundings. Fortu- 
nately for them, their assumption of autho- 
rity in these art-matters came to entire 

It is evident, then, that all authority in 
such things is bad. People sometimes in- 
quire what form of government is most 
suitable for an artist to live under. To 
this question there is only one answer. 
The form of government that is most 
suitable to the artist is no government at 
all. Authority over him and his art is 
ridiculous. It has been stated that under 
despotisms artists have produced lovely 



work. This is not quite so. Artists have 
visited despots, not as subjects to be tyran- 
nised over, but as wandering wonder-makers, 
as fascinating vagrant personalities, to be 
entertained and charmed and suffered to be 
at peace, and allowed to create. There is 
this to be said in favour of the despot, that 
he, being an individual, may have culture, 
while the mob, being a monster, has none. 
One who is an Emperor and King may 
stoop down to pick up a brush for a painter, 
but when the democracy stoops down it is 
merely to throw mud. And yet the de- 
mocracy have not so far to stoop as the 
emperor. In fact, when they want to throw 
mud they have not to stoop at all. But 
there is no necessity to separate the monarch 
from the mob ; all authority is equally bad. 
There are three kinds of despots. There 
is the despot who tyrannises over the body. 



There is the despot who tyrannises over the 
soul. There is the despot who tyrannises 
over the soul and body alike. The first is 
called the Prince. The second is called 
the Pope. The third is called the People. 
The Prince may be cultivated. Many 
Princes have been. Yet in the Prince 
there is danger. One thinks of Dante at 
the bitter feast in Verona, of Tasso in 
Ferrara's madman's cell. It is better for 
the artist not to live with Princes. The 
Pope may be cultivated. Many Popes have 
been ; the bad Popes have been. The bad 
Popes loved Beauty, almost as passionately, 
nay, with as much passion as the good 
Popes hated Thought. To the wickedness 
of the Papacy humanity owes much. The 
goodness of the Papacy owes a terrible debt 
to humanity. Yet, though the Vatican has 
kept the rhetoric of its thunders, and lost 



the rod of its lightning, it is better for the 
artist not to live with Popes. It was a 
Pope who said of Cellini to a conclave of 
Cardinals that common laws and common 
authority were not made for men such as 
he; but it was a Pope who thrust Cellini 
into prison, and kept him there till he 
sickened with rage, and created unreal 
visions for himself, and saw the gilded sun 
enter his room, and grew so enamoured of 
it that he sought to escape, and crept out 
from tower to tower, and falling through 
dizzy air at dawn, maimed himself, and was 
by a vine-dresser covered with vine leaves, 
and carried in a cart to one who, loving 
beautiful things, had care of him. There 
is danger in Popes. And as for the People, 
what of them and their authority ? Per- 
haps of them and their authority one has 
spoken enough. Their authority is a thing 

81 G 


blind, deaf, hideous, grotesque, tragic, 
amusing, serious, and obscene. It is im- 
possible for the artist to live with the 
People. All despots bribe. The People 
bribe and brutalise. Who told them to 
exercise authority ? They were made to 
live, to listen, and to love. Someone has 
done them a great wrong. They have 
marred themselves by imitation of their in- 
feriors. They have taken the sceptre of the 
Prince. How should they use it ? They 
have taken the triple tiara of the Pope. 
How should they carry its burden ? They 
are as a clown whose heart is broken. They 
are as a priest whose soul is not yet born. 
Let all who love Beauty pity them. Though 
they themselves love not Beauty, yet let 
them pity themselves. Who taught them 
the trick of tyranny? 

There are many other things that one 


might point out. One might point out how 
the Renaissance was great, because it sought 
to solve no social problem, and busied itself 
not about such things, but suffered the 
individual to develop freely, beautifully, 
and naturally, and so had great and in- 
dividual artists, and great and individual 
men. One might point out how Louis XIV., 
by creating the modern state, destroyed the 
individualism of the artist, and made things 
monstrous in their monotony of repetition, 
and contemptible in their conformity to 
rule, and destroyed throughout all France 
all those fine freedoms of expression that 
had made tradition new in beauty, and new 
modes one with antique form. But the 
past is of no importance. The present is 
of no importance. It is with the future 
that we have to deal. For the past is what 
man should not have been. The present is 



what man ought not to be. The future is 
what artists are. 

It will, of course, be said that such a 
scheme as is set forth here is quite un- 
practical, and goes against human nature. 
This is perfectly true. It is unpractical, 
and it goes against human nature. This is 
why it is worth carrying out, and that is 
why one proposes it. For what is a 
practical scheme ? A practical scheme is 
either a scheme that is already in existence, 
or a scheme that could be carried out under 
existing conditions. But it is exactly the 
existing conditions that one objects to ; and 
any scheme that could accept these con- 
ditions is wrong and foolish. The conditions 
will be done away with, and human nature 
will change. The only thing that one really 
knows about human nature is that it 
changes. Change is the one quality we 



can predicate of it. The systems that fail 
are those that rely on the permanency of 
human nature, and not on its growth and 
development. The error of Louis XIV. 
was that he thought human nature would 
always be the same. The result of his error 
was the French Revolution. It was an 
admirable result. All the results of 
the mistakes of governments are quite 

It is to be noted that Individualism 
does not come to the man with any sickly 
cant about duty, which merely means doing 
what other people want because they want 
it ; or any hideous cant about self-sacrifice, 
which is merely a survival of savage 
mutilation. In fact, it does not come to 
a man with any claims upon him at all. It 
comes naturally and inevitably out of man. 
It is the point to which all development 



tends. It is the differentiation to which all 
organisms grow. It is the perfection that 
is inherent in every mode of life, and 
towards which every mode of life quickens. 
And so Individualism exercises no com- 
pulsion over man. On the contrary, it 
says to man that he should suffer no 
compulsion to be exercised over him. It 
does not try to force people to be good. It 
knows that people are good when they are 
let alone. Man will develop Individualism 
out of himself. Man is now so developing 
Individualism. To ask whether Indivi- 
dualism is practical is like asking whether 
Evolution is practical. Evolution is the 
law of life, and there is no evolution 
except towards individualism. Where this 
tendency is not expressed, it is a case of 
artificially-arrested growth, or of disease, or 
of death. 



Individualism will also be unselfish and 
unaffected. It has been pointed out that 
one of the results of the extraordinary 
tyranny of authority is that words are 
absolutely distorted from their proper and 
simple meaning, and are used to express 
the obverse of their right signification. 
What is true about Art is true about Life. 
A man is called affected, nowadays, if he 
dresses as he likes to dress. But in doing 
that he is acting in a perfectly natural 
manner. Affectation, in such matters, 
consists in dressing according to the views 
of one's neighbour, whose views, as they 
are the views of the majority, will probably 
be extremely stupid. Or a man is called 
selfish if he lives in the manner that seems 
to him most suitable for the full realisation 
of his own personality; if, in fact, the 
primary aim of his life is self-development. 



But this is the way in which everyone 
should live. Selfishness is not living as one 
wishes to live, it is asking others to live as 
one wishes to live. And unselfishness is 
letting other people's lives alone, not 
interfering with them. Selfishness always 
aims at creating around it an absolute 
uniformity of type. Unselfishness recognises 
infinite variety of type as a delightful thing, 
accepts it, acquiesces in it, enjoys it. It is 
not selfish to think for oneself. A man who 
does not think for himself does not think at 
all. It is grossly selfish to require of one's 
neighbour that he should think in the same 
way, and hold the same opinions. \Vhy 
should he ? If he can think, he will probably 
think differently. If he cannot think, it is 
monstrous to require thought of any kind 
from him. A red rose is not selfish because 
it wants to be a red rose. It would be 


horribly selfish if it wanted all the other 
flowers in the garden to be both red and 
roses. Under Individualism people will be 
quite natural and absolutely unselfish, and 
will know the meanings of the words, and 
realise them in their free, beautiful lives. 
Nor will men be egotistic as they are now. 
For the egotist is he who makes claims 
upon others, and the Individualist will not 
desire to do that. It will not give him 
pleasure. When man has realised Indi- 
vidualism, he will also realise sympathy and 
exercise it freely and spontaneously. Up to 
the present man has hardly cultivated sym- 
pathy at all. He has merely sympathy with 
pain, and sympathy with pain is not the 
highest form of sympathy. All sympathy 
is fine, but sympathy with suffering is the 
least fine mode. It is tainted with egotism. 
It is apt to become morbid. There is in it a 


certain element of terror for our own safety. 
We become afraid that we ourselves might 
be as the leper or as the blind, and that no 
man would have care of us. It is curiously 
limiting, too. One should sympathise with 
the entirety of life, not with life's sores and 
maladies merely, but with life's joy and 
beauty and energy and health and freedom. 
The wider sympathy is, of course, the more 
difficult. It requires more unselfishness. 
Anybody can sympathise with the sufferings 
of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature 
it requires, in fact, the nature of a true 
Individualist to sympathise with a friend's 

In the modern stress of competition 
and struggle for place, such sympathy is 
naturally rare, and is also very much stifled 
by the immoral ideal of uniformity of type 
and conformity to rule which is so prevalent 



everywhere, and is perhaps most obnoxious 
in England. 

Sympathy with pain there will, of 
course, always be. It is one of the first 
instincts of man. The animals which are 
individual, the higher animals, that is to say, 
share it with us. But it must be re- 
membered that while sympathy with joy 
intensifies the sum of joy in the world, 
sympathy with pain does not really diminish 
the amount of pain. It may make man 
better able to endure evil, but the evil 
remains. Sympathy with consumption does 
not cure consumption ; that is what Science 
does. And when Socialism has solved the 
problem of poverty, and Science solved 
the problem of disease, the area of the 
sentimentalists will be lessened, and the 
sympathy of man will be large, healthy, 
and spontaneous. Man will have joy in 



the contemplation of the joyous life of 

For it is through joy that the In- 
dividualism of the future will develop itself. 
Christ made no attempt to reconstruct 
society, and consequently the Individualism 
that he preached to man could be realised 
only through pain or in solitude. The ideals 
that we owe to Christ are the ideals of the 
man who abandons society entirely, or of the 
man who resists society absolutely. But 
man is naturally social. Even the Thebaid 
became peopled at last. And though the 
cenobite realises his personality, it is often 
an impoverished personality that he so 
realises. Upon the other hand, the terrible 
truth that pain is a mode through which 
man may realise himself exercises a won- 
derful fascination over the world. Shallow 
speakers and shallow thinkers in pulpits and 



on platforms often talk about the world's 
worship of pleasure, and whine against it. 
But it is rarely in the world's history that 
its ideal has been one of joy and beauty. 
The worship of pain has far more often 
dominated the world. Medievalism, with 
its saints and martyrs, its love of self- 
torture, its wild passion for wounding itself, 
its gashing with knives, and its whipping 
with rods Medievalism is real Christianity, 
and the medieval Christ is the real Christ. 
When the Renaissance dawned upon the 
world, and brought with it the new ideals 
of the beauty of life and the joy of living, 
men could not understand Christ. Even 
Art shows us that. The painters of the 
Renaissance drew Christ as a little boy 
playing with another boy in a palace or a 
garden, or lying back in his mother's arms, 
smiling at her, or at a flower, or at a bright 



bird ; or as a noble, stately figure moving 
nobly through the world ; or as a wonderful 
figure rising in a sort of ecstasy from death 
to life. Even when they drew him crucified 
they drew him as a beautiful God on whom 
evil men had inflicted suffering. But he 
did not preoccupy them much. What 
delighted them was to paint the men and 
women whom they admired, and to show 
the loveliness of this lovely earth. They 
painted many religious pictures in fact, 
they painted far too many, and the 
monotony of type and motive is weari- 
some, and was bad for art. It was the 
result of the authority of the public in art- 
matters, and is to be deplored. But their 
soul was not in the subject. Raphael was a 
great artist when he painted his portrait 
of the Pope. When he painted his 
Madonnas and infant Christs, he is not 



a great artist at all. Christ had no message 
for the Renaissance, which was wonderful 
because it brought an ideal at variance with 
his, and to find the presentation of the 
real Christ we must go to mediaeval art. 
There he is one maimed and marred ; one 
who is not comely to look on, because 
Beauty is a joy ; one who is not in fair 
raiment, because that may be a joy also : 
he is a beggar who has a marvellous soul ; 
he is a leper whose soul is divine ; he needs 
neither property nor health ; he is a God 
realising his perfection through pain. 

The evolution of man is slow. The 
injustice of men is great. It was necessary 
that pain should be put forward as a mode 
of self-realisation. Even now, in some 
places in the world, the message of Christ 
is necessary. No one who lived in modern 
Russia could possibly realise his perfection 



except by pain. A few Russian artists 
have realised themselves in Art ; in a fiction 
that is mediaeval in character, because its 
dominant note is the realisation of men 
through suffering. But for those who 
are not artists, and to whom there is no 
mode of life but the actual life of fact, 
pain is the only door to perfection. A 
Russian who lives happily under the present 
system of government in Russia must either 
believe that man has no soul, or that, if 
he has, it is not worth developing. A 
Nihilist who rejects all authority be- 
cause he knows authority to be evil, and 
welcomes all pain, because through that 
he realises his personality, is a real 
Christian. To him the Christian ideal is 
a true thing. 

And yet, Christ did not revolt against 
authority. He accepted the imperial au- 



thority of the Roman Empire and paid 
tribute. He endured the ecclesiastical 
authority of the Jewish Church, and would 
not repel its violence by any violence of his 
own. He had, as I said before, no scheme 
for the reconstruction of society. But the 
modern world has schemes. It proposes to 
do away with poverty and the suffering that 
it entails. It desires to get rid of pain, and 
the suffering that pain entails. It trusts to 
Socialism and to Science as its methods. 
What it aims at is an Individualism express- 
ing itself through joy. This Individualism 
will be larger, fuller, lovelier than any In- 
dividualism has ever been. Pain is not the 
ultimate mode of perfection. It is merely 
provisional and a protest. It has reference 
to wrong, unhealthy, unjust surroundings. 
When the wrong, and the disease, and the 
injustice are removed, it will have no 

97 H 


further place. It was a great work, but it 
is almost over. Its sphere lessens every 

Nor will man miss it. For what man 
has sought for is, indeed, neither pain nor 
pleasure, but simply Life. Man has sought 
to live intensely, fully, perfectly. When he 
can do so without exercising restraint on 
others, or suffering it ever, and his activities 
are all pleasurable to him, he will be saner, 
healthier, more civilised, more himself. 
Pleasure is Nature's test, her sign of ap- 
proval. When man is happy, he is in 
harmony with himself and his environment. 
The new Individualism, for whose service 
Socialism, whether it wills it or not, is 
working, will be perfect harmony. It will 
be what the Greeks sought for, but could 
not, except in Thought, realise completely, 
because they had slaves, and fed them; it 


will be what the Renaissance sought for, 
but could not realise completely except in 
Art, because they had slaves, and starved 
them. It will be complete, and through it 
each man will attain to his perfection. The 
new Individualism is the new Hellenism. 

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